Karen was left in awe

NEWS of Nelson Mandela’s death triggered memories for Wangaratta woman Karen Rourke of her chance encounter with the great man.

Ms Rourke, who last week was named a field officer for the Liberal Party’s new Indi office, found herself shaking Mr Mandela’s hand at the athlete’s village at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

The a member of the organising committee was in the village when the former president dropped by to visit the South African athletes.

Although the meeting was brief — a handshake and polite “how do you do” — it has certainly stayed with Ms Rourke.

“He was of such small stature but had a very big presence,” she said.

“It was very overwhleming — I couldn’t believe I was in the same space as someone who was so important to the world.

“It was one of the highlights of my life.”

She was saddened to hear of his death.

“The world was very lucky to have him for as long as it did,” she said.

“He changed the way people think. South Africa will mourn him for a long time.”

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